Church of England still the Tory Party at prayer; Roman Catholics 'preferred Gordon Brown'
Theos have an interesting and insightful booklet out today: Is there a 'Religious Right' Emerging in Britain? (PDF download). Of particular interest is the enduring apparent correlation between denomination and party affiliation:
According to political scientist Ben Clements who has analysed the BES (British Election Survey) results, the data showed that Anglicans were more likely to vote for the Conservative Party than any other religious group (45% said they did), whereas Roman Catholics were, along with the nonreligious, least likely (29%). Catholics were more likely to vote Labour (40%), and the non-religious group was reasonably evenly split between the three parties, with a slight preponderance of support for the Liberal Democrats. The ‘other Christian denomination’ group (i.e. non-conformists, free and independent churches) were also evenly split between the three main parties, with a slight preference towards Conservative (33%).All such research gives a useful snapshot of the socio-religio-political state of affairs of Britain. It would be interesting to know if Roman Catholics find atheist Ed Miliband as attractive as Scottish Presbyterian Gordon Brown. It would be equally interesting to discover how the imminent appointment of Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury might change the Anglican-Conservative dynamic. Conservatives do not equate to Republicans any more than Pat Robertson finds counterpart in Nicky Gumbel. But this is a welcome report, not least because it hands to David Cameron and Lynton Crosby a wealth of strategic information which may be used to 'target' Christian voters (however they might be defined) on the diverse and often conflicting issues which concern them. CCHQ won't listen, of course: the obsession remains with BME and LGBTQ groups. Focusing on 'Christian concerns' will only prolong the contamination of the Conservative brand.
The UKIP earned between 2.7% (other Christian denomination) and 4.9% (Anglican) of votes, whilst the BNP got between 0.2% (other Christian denomination) and 1.2% (no religion) of votes. The BES asked respondents about more than their voting record. The 2009/10 wave asked opinions of the main party leaders. Reflecting the direction of the political wind, David Cameron was most popular among four of the five groups, the exception being Roman Catholics, who preferred Gordon Brown.
The BES also asked respondents for their general opinion of parties, scoring each on a scale of 0 to 10. On this measure, Anglicans preferred the Conservatives (5.3) and Liberal Democrats (5.2) over Labour (4), whereas Roman Catholics preferred Liberal Democrats (5.1) and Labour (4.9) over Conservatives (4). The ‘other Christian denomination’ group preferred Liberal Democrats (5.4) over Labour (4.8) and Conservatives (4.4), which was also the order in which the non-religious group ranked the parties.
...Only one of the five BES categories – Roman Catholics – corresponds, in any way, to the groups that comprise the US Religious Right. It is noteworthy, therefore, that this category is also the most consistently left-of-centre of all the five surveyed in Britain. It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that the accusations of a British Religious Right quoted in the introduction focus on Protestant (evangelical) groups rather than Catholic ones, a fact that is reflected in the choice of interviewees in chapter 3.
Although the BES ‘Anglican’ category was the most consistently Conservative of the five analysed, the alignment between Anglicanism and Conservatism was not comparable to that between evangelicals and Republicans in the US. More Anglicans voted for the two other mainstream parties than they did the Conservatives, and Anglicans were generally as positive about the Liberal Democrats as they were the Tories.
His Grace has just one quibble - the utterly disproportionate profile given to Stephen Green (17 mentions) and 'Christian Voice' (19 mentions). When the Evangelical Alliance, which represents two million Christians, manages only 20 references, it is bizarre that a one-man outfit with a few hundred followers should feature so prominently, and that the authors' justification is 'the level of media exposure he has been given'.
Such media exposure feeds his prominence in reports such as this, and reports such as this then justify an even greater media exposure. Not until Christians have moved beyond cultic behaviour and denominational dogmatism will there be anything like a coherent 'Christian Right' in the UK. And, even then, the Anglicans will mostly be Tory, and the Roman Catholics will tend to prefer Gordon Brown.